ROBERT COMSTOCK conservation
Vultures are considered one of the most threatened groups of animals in the world. The Peregrine Fund's project based in Kenya, along with collaborating partners documented population declines of up to 80% in eight of Africa's 10 vulture species, justifying their uplisting to Endangered or Critically Endangered. When India lost 99% of its vulture population in the early 2000s, the feral dog population expanded to approximately 5.5 million animals that fed on cow carcasses the vultures themselves would have consumed. With the increased number of dogs, approximately 38.5 million more humans were bitten, which led to an excess of 47,000 additional deaths from rabies.
The chief threat to African vultures today is poisoning. Carcasses are baited with highly toxic agricultural pesticides to kill livestock predators, such as wild dogs, spotted hyenas, jackals, lions and leopards. These measures have a devastating impact on the vulture population. Additionally, the rapid increase in elephant and rhino poaching throughout Africa has led to a surge in the number of recorded vulture deaths. Carcasses are poisoned specifically to eliminate vultures whose overhead circling might otherwise reveal the poacher's illicit activities. Other reasons for the decline include the illegal trade in vulture body parts for traditional medicine, killing for bushmeat and mortality caused by power lines and wind turbines.
CONSEQUENCE OF VULTURE LOSS
The ecosystem is significantly altered by the loss of these large scavengers and the vital ecosystem services they provide. When India experienced its 99% loss of Vultures and an increase of 47,000 human rabies deaths caused by feral dog bites, studies showed that the cost to India's economy was more than $34 billion in medical costs. Losing vultures in Africa could have a potentially similar impact because of unconsumed and rotting animal carcasses resulting in increased populations of feral dogs, rodents and disease transmission.
MAASAI FIRST RESPONDERS
Robert and his team travel to the Maasai Mara of Kenya to work with Vulture Liaison Officers who play an important role as first responders to apex predator kills. Lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas are four top predators that prey on the herds of Maasai shepherds. It is common for a Maasai pastoralist to locate and poison dead carcasses, killing any predators threatening their livestock. First responders manage conflict between humans and predators. A single poisoned carcass can take down a range of animals with particularly damaging effects on endangered vultures. Discover the courageous efforts of Vulture Liaison Officers by clicking the link below.
The Robert Comstock company donates a percentage of its profits to support The Peregrine Fund's ongoing efforts in Kenya. Each style represented in this site is paired with a specific project to help stop the killing of Vultures and bring about their recovery. We invite you to participate. 100% of every donation goes directly to support field activities.